Shooting Tourism in Hawaii- The Royal Hawaiian Shooting Club

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This upscale range in a high end Waikiki Mall is part of a new type of tourism, a place to allow people from around the world to enjoy the freedoms that we have as Americans to keep and bear arms
This upscale range in a high end Waikiki Mall is part of a new type of tourism, a place to allow people from around the world to enjoy the freedoms that we have as Americans to keep and bear arms.

My first intro to the Royal Hawaiian Shooting Club was this poster.  Imagine finding something like this in your local mall
My first intro to the Royal Hawaiian Shooting Club was this poster.  Imagine finding something like this in your local mall.

Plaques signed by numerous celebrities demonstrate the high end popularity of rental places like the Royal Hawaiian Shooters Club
Plaques signed by numerous celebrities demonstrate the high end popularity of rental places like the Royal Hawaiian Shooters Club.

A professional teaching center is part of the atmosphere.  Included are several “inert” versions of popular guns to use as teaching aids
A professional teaching center is part of the atmosphere.  Included are several “inert” versions of popular guns to use as teaching aids
A professional teaching center is part of the atmosphere.  Included are several “inert” versions of popular guns to use as teaching aids.

Dean Probyn, shows off his target at the Royal Hawaiian.  This boat racer gets to enjoy shooting here in the US in a way he never could in New Zealand
Dean Probyn, shows off his target at the Royal Hawaiian.  This boat racer gets to enjoy shooting here in the US in a way he never could in New Zealand.

Guns are tethered safely in the stalls of the shooting range to prevent any accidents
Guns are tethered safely in the stalls of the shooting range to prevent any accidents.

The indoor range was well set up, and conveyed an image of professionalism for both new and experienced shooters
The indoor range was well set up, and conveyed an image of professionalism for both new and experienced shooters.

Gun Tourism, How Shooting Ranges Have Cashed in

On a New Kind of Tourism…and Have Shared the Love of Shooting along the Way

By Brian Jensen

RHS Shooting:
http://www.rhshooting.com/en/ 

I recently visited the Islands of Hawaii, putting some of my hard earned vacation dollars to work.  While there, I noticed something unusual in the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center in downtown Waikiki.  It was a billboard ad for a shooting range, of all things, where tourists could rent guns and shoot!
Now I’m from California, and a shooting range is the next thing to an adult book store there, so I was pretty surprised to see the ad, much less in an urban shopping center.  Since my interest was piqued, I had to wander up to the top floor to see what’s what. 

The Setting: Hawaii’s Not-so-gun-friendly atmosphere.

Hawaii is a beautiful paradise and gun crime there is quite low.  ( It actually came in dead last, pardon the pun, at 2.8 deaths per 100,000.)  Many will argue that this is due to the Island’s isolation from a land border which prevents smuggling, and very strict gun laws.  Residents must take a state mandated class, get a clearance / permit from police, and then present this to the gun store just to buy a gun; a process that can take some time.  Transporting guns is strictly regulated, and you need to go directly from home to the range and back to home.  Getting caught to grab a burger or a snack on the way can land you in trouble with the law. 

There is only one public range on Oahu, and with only limited availability.  All the other ranges are privately owned, indoor ranges. 

But in the midst of all this, remember, this is Hawaii; a playground for millions of tourists from all over the world, many of whom have never even handled a gun, much less fired one.  When they come here, they come to a land blessed with the Second Amendment where guns, while somewhat restricted, are still accessible.

The local entrepreneurs recognized the opportunity this presented and ran with it.  Why not let people have a taste of the freedom to bear arms and see what it’s like to actually fire a pistol rather than only see it in a movie?

The Clientele

Hawaii in general, and Honolulu in particular, are uniquely positioned to attract those who come to enjoy its vacation industry.   I asked Nicholas Haigler, one of the Assistant Managers of the Royal Hawaiian Shooting Club as the range is called, what kinds of customers come into his establishment.  He said around 80% are first time shooters.  Many are from Japan where the ownership of firearms is banned for almost everyone, and have never even touched a gun.  Likewise, people from Australia, New Zealand, or Canada, where gun laws are very restrictive, can shoot something they would have otherwise never gotten a chance to handle.  While I was there, I bumped into two women from Germany who were shooting .22’s and having a ball. 

Training for All

Someone can’t just come in, check out a gun and start blazing.  Nicholas told me everyone gets a safety class and briefing on how to handle the pistols.  In addition, they have numerous dummy guns to demonstrate with and use to teach these new shooters.  On top of it all, the staff at the Royal Hawaiian Shooting Club are all NRA certified instructors with anywhere from 15-19 years of instructor / shooting experience. 

Not only do they put on classes at the club in compliance with their local and state laws for the certification of Hawaiian shooters, but they also host shooting classes and experiences for the interested novice.  They even participate in the shooting classes for high school teams in the area.  (You heard that right. High schools are still doing marksmanship classes in Hawaii.) 

Going from shooting .22’s to big caliber .44’s and others is a favorite choice for visitors.  For them, this is a treasure trove of new experiences.  Imagine a person from overseas who’s not even allowed to possess anything resembling a gun, getting to see and shoot the gun from “Dirty Harry” – now that’s a story to write home about.

While the Royal Hawaiian Shooting Club facilities are restricted to the guns supplied by the club, they soon hope to open their facility for guns supplied by the shooter.  They plan to kick this off with an upcoming shooting tournament that will bring shooters from all over the country.  However, being located in the middle of an upscale shopping mall in the center of Waikiki has made this somewhat of a challenge.  Nicholas says they’re working through this by educating the surrounding tenants and customers about what they do and the safety precautions they take.  

Seeing it for Myself,

So, Mr. Haigler showed me into the range and the first thing I saw was one of the only Handicapped accessible shooting stalls in the state.  Inside was Dean Probyn, a race boat driver from New Zealand who’s confined to a wheelchair.  Dean was smiling ear to ear after doing some shooting with a Glock 9mm and a CAR-9.  He proudly showed off the target he shot using the 9mm AR Carbine.  Probyn said he enjoyed the club in Waikiki simply because there really aren’t any ranges of this type in New Zealand, and here he gets a chance to enjoy guns like the Glock and Colt.

In the next section, I saw a 17-lane shooting range that was clean, professionally set up, and that would likely make any range aficionado drool.  This is the largest indoor range of its type in Hawaii.  Shooters can shoot out to what appeared to be 15 yards, and have choices of pistols and rifles of various calibers.
There are some idiosyncrasies that may seem a little odd to you.  Because the range is a rental setup, and because some of their customers have never shot before and may have only a rudimentary understanding of range safety, the guns are all tethered in their booth with the barrels secured so that they point in only one direction, downrange.  This prevents the shooter from having too much freedom with the gun and unintentionally “lasering” someone with the muzzle.  It also keeps the guns secure right where they are.

Not the Only One:

While the Royal Hawaiian Shooting Club is regarded by many as the nicest rental setup of its kind in the islands, it is by no means the only one.  Walking along Kalakaua Avenue in the heart of tourist saturated Waikiki, amongst the street performers and vendors selling their touristy trinkets, were several men with shirts and sandwich boards advertising other ranges.  Like any other street advertiser, they were passing out flyers and drumming up business for this new “tourism.”

Royal Hawaiian doesn’t like to advertise in that way because of the professional image they want to project, but they aren’t worried about the competition as their customers keep coming.  Even celebrities come to their range to shoot.  On a wall by the entrance are many plaques from visiting shooters, including such big names as Shaquille O’Neal.

In Closing:

The trip into this little bit of tourism made me appreciate even the limited amount of second amendment freedoms I enjoy here in CA.  As we continue to struggle against infringements of our right to keep and bear arms, we sometimes forget how unique we are as a nation to have the Second Amendment at all. 
What I found even more encouraging is that what has also made us great as a nation, our entrepreneurial spirit, is alive and well and plugged into shooting.  Gun enthusiasts have found a way to make our firearms freedom a business, and a way to spread a little of the Second Amendment around the world. 

Webpage: http://www.rhshooting.com/en/

{ 21 comments… add one }
  • Rafael September 10, 2011, 4:43 pm

    I am now kicking myself because after being in Hawaii so many times in the Navy I never got to visit this facility. But, regardless I like that this is an option for the people on the Island. Very nice.

  • triathleteism July 31, 2011, 2:08 pm

    bruddah’s… gun laws in HI are restrictive but they do a really good back ground check and ensure felons or others that have mental problems don’t get to purchase a gun. Still only crims get dah guns. The tourism is the lifeblood and if the state had a violent crime problem like LA, that would not be good. The gov sux anyways and should keep people from HI. What’s hard in HI is getting any approval for CHL/CCW permits. There is a law for one but the police chiefs of each county have to sign a letter authorizing it. They never allow anyone even if you are former cop or some law abiding citizen or military member in town scared for your life due to some crazy pot smoking, meth heds…the basically have to break into yr place, with a gun or some deadly wpn and then you can shoot them to protect yrself..have a disabled, baby in the house whith you too it’ll make your case stronger…it’s better to shoot someone when you have to protect an innocent person. Plus, thoughyou need to forwarn the intruder several times that you are armed. When I took my handgun class, the instructors said the government leaders would probably fire a police chief if he gave an jo smo a CCW permit. Go warriors.

    • Boot to the Head January 8, 2016, 9:15 pm

      So essentially, they managed to abridge the Constitutional second amendment to the furthest extent and your best defense is to learn hand to hand and hope you can roundhouse a thief? I suppose the law there also frowns on carrying little sharp things in your pocket as well?

  • Scott Preuss July 31, 2011, 9:30 am

    The county sheriffs have taken an oath of office to uphold the US constitution. They are obligated to block any unconstitutional laws. (This includes gun laws) We the people need to read and fully understand the declaration of independence, constittution and the bill of rights so that we can take action. If the sheriff’s are not constitutional, they must be replaced.

    • Brian Jensen July 31, 2011, 10:56 pm

      Don’t blame the officers for enforcing a law you’re interpreting as unconstitutional. (Although I do agree with your view). The officers have city attorneys / attorney generals telling them the regulations they enforce are constitutional, and those opinions hold legal weight. The officers may disagree with the laws in their own personal feelings, but we must as officers enforce the law. We face discipline if we don’t.

  • Dustin - Odessa Websites July 30, 2011, 9:58 am

    Thanks for keeping me in the loop, you guys send me emails because I bought some extra clips for a .45. Anyway, its interesting stuff. You guys do a good job with your online tools!

  • Commiefornia July 29, 2011, 11:09 pm

    Oops! Should’ve said gun laws in Hawaii when I was there wasn’t as strict as they are now…

  • Commiefornia July 29, 2011, 11:07 pm

    Hawaii’s gun laws aren’t as restrictive as they are in Commiefornia….I mean California. A lot of the gun laws in CA are utterly Draconian and make no logical sense, but most gun laws are like that anyway. I lived in HI half of my life and the municipal Koko Head Range is as good as other outdoor ranges. They have a good rifle range, pistol range, silhouette range and clays. I’ve never been to The Royal Hawaiian Shooting Club, but it looks like a nice facility. Any safe venue that allows people to practice and introduce new shooters into the sport is good by me. On the island of Lanai they also have Lanai Pines Sporting Clays. Hawaii also has deer hunting.

  • Honolulu Kamaaina July 29, 2011, 6:53 pm

    I moved out on Honolulu in 1967 because of strick gun laws on buying and owning handguns and rifle. I have enjoyed purchasing many handguns and rifle now that I live out of Honolulu. It is awesome to go up in the mountains on BML and shoot all I want and a any time at will. Honolulu is a tourist trap and a gun range in the heart of Waikiki will draw many tourist to try it out. I am very surprised that the police department allow a gun range in Waikiki. When I was growing up in Honolulu there were no indoor gun range at all. The only place was a rifle and pistol gun range up in a place called Koko Head mountain on Oahu where an Airforce radar station was on top of Koko Head. I am glad there is a place to shoot and try out a hand gun you would like to shoot before you purchase it. I have been to a range that will allow me to shoot any handgun that is not in use at this small 5 stall pistol range near where I reside now. I need to let my family know of the gun range in Waikiki now.

  • robert smith July 29, 2011, 4:18 pm

    I have mixed feeling about this. It is good to give the non-shooting public a chance to see what it’s all about. On the other hand, it is done in such an over-controlled way in such an anti-gun state that it relegates the gun to a novelty item instead of a part of every-day life. I would much rather those foreign tourists go to Alaska or Arizona and see average citizens freely armed and not hurting anyone.

    • Administrator July 29, 2011, 5:13 pm

      The beaches stink too! They are all sharp volcanic rock. This was a great comment. Florida too! And while you are here pick up your 28 state legal out of state CCW permit.

      • Austin November 14, 2011, 11:51 am

        35 States here in Michigan with 3 other maybes. Hawaii will never get tourism from me!

    • randy pickard August 15, 2011, 3:24 pm

      thank you robert smith and Jason C, your direction as to your comments are valid. the American population as a whole has been victimized by the media and police unions/association, no disrespect to the later. people need to understand our current state of person security is as only
      As good as you’re going to let it be/reflect, personal security is your choice and in most cases for the average person the gun is nothing more than a tool for just this reason security.

      People do need to learn how to govern themselves once again. I agree how ever it is a conflict of interest to our Bar associations.

  • Kevin Abamonga July 29, 2011, 2:48 pm

    Royal Hawaiian is a nice alternative and fun way for first timers even tho I own guns myself.
    I went to shoot there since I was in the area and there is a “kamaaina” discount for Hawaii residents.
    Place is clean, staff is really nice, and the weapons to shoot are a nice selection to use. They mark and tag your targets for you to take home describing what was shot and your “skill level”.

    Hawaii has limitations, but with the budget the State has to enforce (HPD) and to hopefully keep Hawaii as nice as it is, I guess I can understand it.

  • g. July 29, 2011, 11:39 am

    The Poster with the woman with her finger inside the trigger guard and on the trigger must go. She is violating one of the four safety rules, ‘finger off the trigger until the sights are on the target’.

  • Dave Miller - Chelsea, MI July 29, 2011, 8:48 am

    Too bad Hawaii has intruded on Americans’ rights to bear arms …. but, perhaps this commercial venture will help change Hawaii laws coming more in line with the freedom to bear arms as intended under the the 2nd Amendment.

    • Jason C July 30, 2011, 2:57 am

      I am a retired Honolulu cop. Various shooting ranges have been in Waikiki for over 20 years — nothing will change. Hawaii (like California) is a lost cause. I voted with my feet — I left.

      • Mike H August 1, 2011, 8:32 pm

        A former Honolulu PD myself. I’m with Jason C. Happy to be in Las Vegas where a law abiding citizen can still obtain a CCW. With Abercrombie as Governor, Hawaii is destined to get worse.

        • Braden L. August 1, 2011, 10:16 pm

          I appreciate Jason C. and Mike H.’s comments. As a police officer I understand the CCW permit process. But, in Alaska one can carry without a permit. Yes, you need to let an officer know you have a gun if stopped and some other minor restrictions…….but Alaska is the best. People need to re-learn how to govern themselves so that the “government” doesn’t have to. I’ve worked as a Deputy Sheriff in the Bay area in California. Even though there are mucho grande amounts of “yazoos” I still follow the ideology that everyone should support the right to keep and bear arms with no restrictions. Educate the masses with training techniques and allow the citezens of this nation to grasp the concept of self government and responsibility. Just like we did at the beginning of this nation.

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